Then there was Spanish. Not the one
brought from Spain... but the one spoken by the many mestizos who were being pushed North, literally, by those who maintained
the order of blood cleanliness and linguistic purity.
And then more languages and more blood mixes came about…
Spanish has gained stature in the US. There was a day when Spanish speakers were sent to the back
of the room and told not to use "that language". During the seventies, schools gradually came to adopt Spanish as
a language of importance to many in large communities that held it as their heritage. First it became a requirement, and then
it evolved into a program, and needed tool. Yes, as in many other countries where languages coexist –Switzerland, Belgium,
Canada- Spanish had become an indispensible subject. But it was not the Spaniards who came to defend the stature of Spanish
in the US, or any other nationality of Spanish Speakers, for that matter. It was Mexicans! The influence of Mexican Spanish
and Mexican Culture is everywhere in California, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Illinois… Mexican American teachers sought
to legitimate this reality by celebrating their heritage and moving to act on the monolingual reality that surrounded them.
Today the fight for Spanish has taken on many more nationalities and accents, traditions, and cultural heritages, but the
contributions of Mexico and Mexicans are hard to miss and “illegal” (a more appropriate term would be “constitutional”
to deny…! There is a similar precedent in the area with American English. Should anyone envision to establish British
accent or British English in US Schools, there would simply be a riot.
I have consciously eliminated Spanish from my list of languages in Facebook, and have included as other languages
the ones I have learned throughout my life. Mexican, heads the list, French, Portuguese, Italian, Spanglish, Chicano English.
I should have added Latin, Greek and the Etymologies of Romance, Nahuatl and Yaqui. And I will propose to Facebook to add
a line for things users would not learn, as I have discovered there are, indeed, a few. I would not learn to say "yes"
in any language that has barred from existence the equally important word "no". This works for all its derivatives...
compliance/dissent; probity/disobedience; etcetera...
Endangered languages/Lenguas en extinción
I speak have lost standing, gradually. "Mexican" can be ruled endangered, Chicano English irritates the league
of accents, Portuguese was cut away by the budget scissors, Italian, like French, struggles downhill, and Spanglish was never
looked at as worthy of academic interest. As for Latin, I have one friend who struggles teaching it, as a rare objects seminar;
Greek is thought to have disappeared already and with Yaqui and Nahuatl I received not only a door slam and the reminder that
a class needs to open with at least 25, but the grin and the look that states without any sophistication: We have no use for
those! Imagine how would my life be if I spoke Achumawi, Lipan, Cahuilla, Hupa or Karok. Tomorrow I will sign up for Flash
and Illustrator 101, and start a cemetery of languages.
Burial Grounds for Languages/Camposanto
I will name it The Saint Burial
Grounds of Languages/In Lola (genotype for endangered dissent): Camposanto de Lenguas. I am not sure I got it right, so for
fear of missing it I quote what someone dared to suggest to me implying that my Mexican Spanish was not worthy of any pride.
"You apply naturally the rules of grammar to your speech... but you are unable to explain them to your students..."
That made me remember the opposite views my Yaqui instructor in Guadalupe, Arizona, held about learning a language. This is
what he told me when he saw me come with two of the linguistic manuals I had been studying to prepare for the day I would
meet him. "You do not learn a language through rules and manuals... you learn a language by speaking and communicating
with it. And fixing his deep hazel eyes on my notebook, he mused… I have given you five words. If you cannot show me
how you will use them, I am afraid I will not be able to give you any more."
Yaquis are saddened when their off spring choose to abandon their mother tongue.
They express it as if those forgetting their mother tongue leave their ancestors behind. Literally, those youngsters fall
out of being Yaqui. It is a sad day when you have to adopt a language or a nomenclature that severs you from your group.
Two anecdotes before I leave you to your Sunday prayers...
Las golondrinas (Swallows).
or Hirundinidae speak a language among themselves. They would not survive if they didn´t, as in their passerine life
they need to acknowledge their group in order to convene, after a long flight, to set up their temporary colonies. In 2006
they built nests in my apartment building and I realized how they were multilingual. How could you not, in a sky of so many
different species, where not only you need to sort out your own, while being able to tell who sings around you. And how did
I find this out? One day my daughter and I found an off spring fallen from the nest, and kept the little guy in our balcony
for a few hours, the time it took us to contact an authorized refuge. During that time, other swallows came, inspected while
singing and left. Finally one group tried to lift the fallen bird and made loud noises around it. The offspring kept silence,
and only responded to its own group of passerines...
Las golondrinas o Hirundiniadae hablan un idioma propio. Ellas no sobrevivirían si no lo hicieran, ya que
en su vida de viajeras necesitan reconocer a su grupo para reunirse, luego de un largo vuelo, y establecerse en sus colonias
temporales. En 2006 construyeron sus nidos en el edificio de apartamentos donde vivo y pude darme cuenta que eran multilingues.
Y ¿cómo podrían no serlo? En el cielo hay tantas especies que se necesita no sólo distinguir la
propia sino también reconocer a quienes cantan alrededor de uno. ¿Cómo descubrí yo esto? Hallamos
a un retoñito que había caído del nido y lo pusimos en el balcón las horas que nos tomó
hallar un refugio autorizado. Durante el tiempo en que aquel huésped nos visitó vinieron otras golondrinas y
lo inspeccionaron al tiempo que cantaban y se fueron. Finalmente uno de esos grupos intentó llevárselo, haciendo
tremendo escándalo. Y el pajarillo respondía, sólo a ese grupo, su grupo, en su idioma.
Castilla y Lenguas
Adopting Spanish in our Continent was the result of bloody battles. Those invaded named Spanish “Castilla”
(not Castillian), and referred to their own languages as "tongues". Our tongue is the part of our body
that we use to communicate, since we have lost touch with other corporal sounds that would help us achieve that task, as animals
do. We have lost touch with using our palms or extracting rythmic sounds from our feet, or even from our throats. When we
fail to communicate, what is left of a language is the name, an authority, instrumental lightness that soon takes over the
expressiveness of our bodies. That is why I always have the temptation to revolt against modern headphones, as their purpose
is to keep us from hearing the sounds around us. Imagine… what animal species would invest in such an invention that
would only bring about confusion vis à vis the other creatures in your species?
Cuando el español "castellano" se impuso en América (abriéndose
paso de manera sangrienta), los agraviados lo llamaban así, Castilla. Y a sus lenguas, lenguas. Castilla
no era una lengua... porque no comunicaba, imponía, atropellaba, cercaba. La condición de comunicar en los humanos
está en la lengua, pues hemos perdido otros talentos comunicativos como el batir de nuestras palmas, el ritmo sonoro
de los pies, o incluso los sonidos guturales y naturales que de manera expresiva agregan a la realidad de nuestros cuerpos.
Pero lo que no comunica es un nombre, una autoridad, una veleidad instrumental que se impone para acallar a quienes se expresan
a partir de sus sonidos y notas corporales. Yo, por ejemplo, siempre tengo una gran tentación de manifestarme contra
los audífonos modernos que tienen por función aislarnos de los sonidos del mundo. Imaginen… ¿qué
especie inventaría algo así... ese sistema aislante de sonidos que la pondría en total estado de desorientación
para con las otras criaturas?